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  Council » Policies and Plans » Rules and regulation » Waikato Regional Plan » Waikato Regional Plan (online version) » 2.2 Iwi in the Waikato Region » 2.2.3 Waikato-Tainui

2.2.3 Waikato-Tainui

Waikato-Tainui descend from the Tainui waka. Waikato-Tainui occupy the north east area of the Tainui waka rohe. The extensive tribal estate spans from Auckland in the north to Rohe Potae (King Country) in the south, from the west coast to the mountain ranges of Hapuakohe and Kaimai in the east. Significant land marks within the rohe of Waikato include the Waikato and Waipa Rivers, the sacred mountains of Taupiri, Karioi, Pirongia and Maungatautari, and the west coast of Whaiangaroa (Raglan), Manukau, Aotea and Kawhia moana.

The Waikato River is the tupuna (ancestor) of the Waikato tribe from which they derive their name. The following whakataukii (proverb) expresses this relationship:

Ko Waikato te awa Waikato is the river
Ko Te Wherowhero te tangata Te Wherowhero is the man
Waikato Taniwharau Waikato of a hundred chiefs
He piko he taniwha, he piko he taniwha At every bend there is a chief


The whakataukii refers to the prominent landmarks within the Waikato tribal territory and the authority of the paramount Chief and first Maori King Pootatau Te Wherowhero. Reference is also made to the number of powerful Chiefs who reside at each bend of the Waikato River, all of whom acknowledged the authority of Te Wherowhero.

Waikato-Tainui define the Waikato River as the ‘the Waikato River from the Huka Falls to the mouth and includes its waters, banks and beds (and all minerals under them) and its steams, waterways, tributaries, lakes, aquatic fisheries, vegetation and floodplains as well as its metaphysical being’.

In 1859 the Austrian geologist Ferdinan von Hochstetter travelled up the Waikato River and recorded observations of the waterway and the territory of the Waikato people:

“The impression made by the sight of the majestic stream is truly grand. It is only with the Danube or the Rhine that I can compare the mighty river which we had just entered. It is the principal river in the North Island…it surpasses all others…Its waters roll through the most fertile and most beautiful fields, populated by numerous and most powerful tribes of the natives, who have taken their name from it. They look upon the Waikato more than upon any other river of New Zealand as being exclusively their own… Never up to the time of my journey had a board of European construction been known to float upon the proud native stream.” King (1977)1


Waikato-Tainui have a unique and special relationship with the Waikato River. Their identity, their health and their strength are drawn from the Waikato River. The existence of a special relationship between the Waikato-Tainui and the River has long been recognised publicly, and in the report of the Waitangi Tribunal (Manukau Report, July 1985 – Wai 8), the Tribunal concluded:

“It is difficult to over-estimate the importance of the Waikato River to the Tainui tribes. It is a symbol of the tribes’ existence.”


Waikato-Tainui consider that they have duty to themselves and future generations to protect the Waikato River. Waikato-Tainui wish the River to be protected, and restored to its former health and strength.

It is also important to recognise that for Waikato-Tainui the Waikato River means the whole River, in terms of their definition above. The River is not divisible, and so when WaikatoTainui consider any matter concerning the Waikato River, it is the whole of the River which concerns them, from the Huka Falls to its mouth.

Waikato-Tainui are currently represented by the Tainui Maori Trust Board. They have never objected to sharing the waterways or its fisheries and its use for recreation. However, it offends Waikato-Tainui to see the waters of the Waikato River and other waterways being depleted and polluted by users. Waikato-Tainui therefore object to the abuse of the River and other waters. The principle concern of Waikato-Tainui as Kaitiaki, is management, restoration and protection of the environment for future generations. Matters of Concern to Waikato-Tainui

The following is a summary of some matters that are of concern to Waikato-Tainui. It is not comprehensive and does not attempt to do any more than note the issues. Reference to Waikato-Tainui representatives or authorised documentation is recommended in order to fully appreciate the Waikato-Tainui perspective and its context.

  1. Waikato River
    Waikato-Tainui are deeply concerned about the Waikato River. They therefore wish to ensure that they, through the Tainui Maori Trust Board or its successor, are consulted on any proposals which may affect the River.
  2. Manawhakahaere
    Waikato-Tainui have manawhakahaere (authority) over their lands and the Waikato River.
  3. Kaitiakitanga
    Waikato-Tainui are the Kaitiaki of their rohe and consider they should be actively supported to exercise duties and obligations as Kaitiaki. Waikato-Tainui consider it important that they are involved in resource management issues, decision-making and the monitoring of natural and physical resources.
  4. River and Lake Beds
    Waikato-Tainui have concerns with dredging of the Waikato and Waipa River beds, ownership issues and clarification on defining the extent of the river bed. Specific concerns include the need for more monitoring of structures and policing of stock in waterways.
  5. Water
    The direct discharge of waste, effluent or other pollutants, whether treated or untreated, from land or boards is unacceptable and offensive to Waikato-Tainui. Concerns also relate to excessive permitted water takes from the Waikato and Waipa Rivers, the need to restrict the transfer of water permits to prevent potential abuse, the damming and diverting of water, and a need for greater emphasis to be placed on riparian management of non-point source discharges.
  6. Air
    Waikato-Tainui require that no discharge of pollutants into the air will affect the wellbeing of their people, the people they host within their rohe, or put fauna and flora, which rely on clean air, at risk.
  7. Waikato Iwi Customary Use and Values
    Waikato-Tainui consider that their customary uses of waterways and wetlands should be recognised and provided for as part of consent process and policy development. Public access to waahi tapu sites should be restricted, while local tangata whenua should have unimpeded access to these sites for traditional purposes.
  8. Land
    Concerns are expressed regarding soil disturbance activities which impact on cultural values, reduce soil productivity and increase sediment discharges to water bodies. The adoption of good land management practices is required to reduce soil erosion.
  9. Coast
    The key issue for Waikato-Tainui includes management, restoration and protection of the coastal environment for future generations. This and related issues are addressed in more detail by the Regional Coastal Plan for the Waikato Region. Recognition

Waikato Regional Council recognises and acknowledges that Waikato-Tainui are tangata whenua of their rohe and that the well-being of Waikato-Tainui taonga is dependent on the iwi’s ability to exercise its kaitiakitanga obligations. Waikato Regional Council also recognises and acknowledges the important physical, spiritual, cultural, social and economic values held by Waikato-Tainui in regard to the natural and physical resources in their rohe.

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